Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

International Watercourses & the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

“In the long march of mankind from the cave to the computer a central role has always been played by the idea of law-the idea that order is necessary and chaos inimical to a just and stable existence.” Malcolm Shaw, QC.

The Blue Nile course is governed by International Law particularly Treaty Law. The White Nile that originates in Eastern Africa, and the Blue Nile in North-East Africa, i.e. Ethiopia, drop their first names at the place of confluence and maintain their second name only till they shoot forward and disappear into the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the Nile River is strictly governable neither by separate individualistic treaties nor by national laws, but, only by international customary law or conventions.
While international customary law is built upon evolutionary state practices, treaties or international conventions are contractual obligations binding upon the signatories.  Therefore, unless state practices are evolved into international practices, they remain simply part of municipal laws.  International waters or rivers are, wily-nily, governed by international customary law, or treaty law.  It seems to me that it is missunderstanding of such notions that becomes a bone of contention and misleads any nation to assume or feel that it is the ultimate decision maker over such common issues disregarding the concerns of other partakers.  However, in the case of treaties, the states forming parties thereof create new laws that would be binding upon them irrespective of any previous or existing practices that arise from customary law.  So the missunderstanding of or the interpretation of customary international law cannot be taken as an excuse to act differently from the true application of international law.
When we take the Nile question, the down-stream riparian states particularly Egypt rely upon the outdated colonial treaties that were applied to suit the times and the aspirations of the colonial masters prepared intentionally and superficially to mislead the ruled under non-existing or utopian state of affairs only simply to make them feel that they were really the masters of their destinies.  Those treaties were prepared and implemented during the colonial past without the knowledge and inclusion of the upper stream riparian states since they were themselves under the yoke of colonialism.  Those states which were suppressed then became the real masters of their destinies after their independences were declared.  Today, they are bound by new treaties on the common use of the River Nile. Moreover, the beauty of it all is that the New Treaty which is signed by those states, meaning the upper riparian states is open to accession by the lower stream riparian states as well. 
So, no body has the exclusive right to deny the use of the Nile Waters to those peoples whose territories the water flows through or divert the river to change its watercourse.  Egypt and Ethiopia, being amongst the oldest civilizations of our planet, are still bound morally and ethically to respect the norms of international law.  Besides, as members of the U.N.O. they have the right to make recourse to the tenets of the Charter of the Organization any time that their interests are affected as the expression of their amicable external relations that they have enjoyed so far.  It is for these obvious reasons that the Ethiopian Government has clearly and categorically stated that in building the dam it has not the slightest intention to harm the interests of the lower riparian states and that the water levels of the Nile River will never be affected during and after the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.  In fact, it has gone beyond that to invite international committees for consultation and to state that the completion of the Dam which is being financed through internal resources will not only provide ample electricity power both to the brotherly peoples of the Sudan and that of Egypt, but it will also preserve the water level from evaporation to a phenomenal degree of certainty unknown previously.
It is not only in the blood of every Ethiopian to respect the rights and obligations of its neighborly states, but, also it is the guiding principles of the State and Government of Ethiopia to respect the interests, the territorial integrities and sovereignties of all neighboring countries.  Relatively speaking, Ethiopia has lived amicably and with love with its neighbors throughout history, and it may not have any aim to prosper alone in the Diaspora now. It is no surprise that today, Ethiopia, along with some of its neighbors is constructing roads that crisscross boundaries and that would make mobility of peoples and goods as swiftly as possible and that are auguring socio-economic integration among African countries steadily but gradually. 
It is my humble conviction that there is ample opportunity to our good neighbor, Egypt to examine state practices that have formed International Customary Law through case-studies of different times and of different peoples in the application of treaties.  Particularly, it should make use of the good offices of its Ethiopian counterparts who still believe to enjoy direct contacts for mutual solution to any doubtful situations.  After all, we are in a globalized era and in a technologically and digitally shrinking world.  Thank you.